Firefox 81 Adds Support for Touchbar & Keyboard Media Controls

Firefox 81 is now available to download and adds a nice bundle of features for its users, including being able to use the Play/Pause functions on keyboards with dedicated media control buttons, such as the Mac Touchbar or the older media control function keys on 2015 and older MacBooks. Previously, the touchbar functions were limited to apps on the Mac, such as iTunes/Music apps or the desktop Spotify. Now with version 81, you can use the Touchbar or F8 key on your keyboard to play or pause video and audio even if it’s not the active tab. This also goes for Windows 8.1 and newer systems, as well as Linux systems too. They said if you have multiple streams of media open, the button press will trigger the last media tab used, unless you have a video open in Picture in Picture mode.

There are some limitations at this point. For example, Flash player based media, as well as streams using the web-audio and web-speech protocols, though these play/pause functions can work on notification sounds and video without audio, such as GIF’s. You also can’t use the skip forward or back buttons on these keyboards to rewind or skip through tracks or playlists.

That said, just the ability to play/pause with the keys on the keyboard are a nice step up. Testing on sites like YouTube and Pandora, I found them to function exactly as described, though I noticed the Pandora play button didn’t change to a pause button when paused by the key press.

Media Controls under Accessibility have also received some nice tweaks too. Media controls can still be accessed by screen reader tools even if they are hidden, and the total time elapsed or remaining in a piece of media are now more accessible to the screen readers, but they won’t intrusively announce progress while playing unless the user specifically requests it.

More Additions

While media controls via the keyboard are probably the standout feature, this isn’t the only thing Firefox 81 has up its sleeve. American and Canadian Users of Firefox’s Lockwise password management feature will now be able to store credit card and accompanying address info in Firefox to help quickly fill in the relevant information.

Version 81 also added support for AcroFill. While this feature isn’t fully enabled yet, it will mean that Firefox will allow you to fill out PDF’s in the browser that support the protocol. While it won’t replace professional tools like Acrobat, if you just need to type in your name and some other info in a PDF, this could just ease your load of work.

Firefox also added a new theme that is generally colored more like it’s icon, though I find it to be very purple, called “Alpenglow”. Still, a new theme is certainly nice, and some of you may enjoy it.

Lastly, Austrian, Belgian, and Swiss users of the German version of Firefox will now be able to start seeing Pocket Recommended stories in the New Tab page.

A Few Other Changes

Firefox also announced a few other tweaks to their browser, such as the aforementioned media control adjustments for screen readers. Picture-in-Picture Mode will soon have some new iconography to help you be able to see it better and start using it.

Along with this, .xml, .svg, and .webp files can now be opened and viewed natively in Firefox.

Firefox 81 is an automatic update for Firefox users and can be downloaded from Firefox.com. Full changelog notes can be found here.

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